As it heads into its fifth decade, punk rock is aging well, and Tuesday night at the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, two bands showed why.
The headliner was Bad Religion, a Los Angeles band founded in 1979. Nearly 40 years later, its sound — a furious mix of speed and melody and socio-political lyrics — still resonates.
The band has survived breakups and several personnel changes but through it all has sustained a loyal and passionate fan base. More than 700 of those fans showed up Tuesday and were treated to a 90-minute set filled with energy and loaded with favorites and hits.
They plumbed a catalog that goes back to 1980, including diatribes like “F*** Armageddon … This Is Hell” from the debut album “How Could Hell Be Any Worse,” released in 1980.
Time has been kind to both the music and the band, which these days features three founding members: lead singer Greg Graffin, guitarist Brett Gurewitz and bassist Jay Bentley, all of whom are in their 50s.
Graffin is a no-frills frontman who delivers his band’s music with candid, down-to-earth charm, issuing earnest wisecracks and pointed commentary along the way. He is also a professor and a man of letters, having earned his doctorate from Cornell University.
The set list, which comprised nearly 30 songs, included classics like “21st Century (Digital Boy),” “American Jesus,” “Infected,” “Sorrow,” all melodic and potent punk anthems with singalong choruses and featuring two- and three-part harmonies. For the incendiary “Television,” a deep cut from the 1994 album “Stranger Than Fiction,” Graffin shared vocal duties with Laura Jane Grace, lead singer for the band Against Me, one of the openers.
Politics, implicitly and explicitly, have always been part of Bad Religion’s music, and though some of the lyrics are decades old, songs like “Change of Ideas,” which clocked in at under 1 minute, sounded pertinent and contemporary, as did more recent songs like “Robin Hood in Reverse” and “Let Them Eat War.”
They closed with a three-song encore that included the hyperventilating “Armageddon” and “Sorrow,” an appeal for peace, grace and relief from all the sorrow in the world, a message that lived up to the motto on the banner that hung behind the band: “Vox populi.”
Against Me: The quartet from Gainesville, Fla., is led by Grace, who, in 2012 came out as a transgender woman. Thus the title of the band’s 2014 album, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” They played two of its songs — the title track and “F***MyLife666” — plus a few from “Shape Shift With Me,” released in September, including “Crash,” “333” and “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts.”
The rest of the set included favorites like “Thrash Unreal,” “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” and “Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%.” They and their loud, melodic, punk/bar-band anthems were the perfect prelude to the headliner’s equally emphatic sounds.